Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 12: Common health problems

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HealthWiki > Helping Children Live with HIV > Chapter 12: Common health problems

Most young children become ill from time to time. Though it seems backwards, getting sick and fighting illness is part of how children build a good immune system and good health. If well-nourished and without HIV, children recover without medical care from many of these illnesses, needing care only for the most serious ones.

Children with HIV, however, cannot fight illness well. They get sicker faster and may take longer to get well. They may need medical care for illnesses that children without HIV could heal from on their own, and they may need care more quickly.

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This chapter can help you recognize signs of illnesses common for children with HIV and know what to do about them, including when to get medical help quickly. If your child has other signs of illness than those covered in this chapter, or problems you do not know how to handle, talk them over with a health worker or with other parents of HIV+ children.

Babies and children living with HIV will avoid illness better if they eat well, take cotrimoxazole to fight infections], get their childhood vaccinations on time (see Where There Is No Doctor, page 147), and most importantly, take ART, the medicines that fight HIV. Children with HIV who take ART will avoid many of the illnesses discussed in this chapter, or be ill much less often. Chapter 8 has information on testing to help you find out if your child has HIV, and Chapter 11 has information on ART.

If your child has just started taking ART

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It can take a little time for a child’s body to become used to ART medicines. Some children have side effects from ART that seem like signs of illness, including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, rash, or lack of energy — some of the same signs discussed in this chapter. However, side effects usually do not last very long and go away by themselves. Ask your health worker about what side effects to expect, and see ways to help your child feel more comfortable if he is having side effects from ART.

This page was updated:27 Nov 2019